I have a feeling I’ve said this in every review so far, but I’ll just say it again – 2013 is already proving to be an exceptional year. Here we have (finally) Atoms for Peace’s debut album Amok. This ‘supergroup’ is comprised of Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker formally of Beck and R.E.M., and Mauro Refosco. This group was formed in late 2009, releasing a few songs here and there with the occasional tour. Yes, the word ‘supergroup’ is usually a red flag for many, but there is a lot of promise given the talent in this band. So how does this album stack up? Does it live up to the expectation? Well, yes – hell yes actually, in my opinion.
So let’s jump right into it. Amok hits you right away with a lot of percussion in the opener “Before Your Very Eyes…” Those who are familiar with Radiohead’s King of Limbs and their work since will be familiar with the intricacy of the beat laid down by the two percussionists. Over this is an undeniably catchy guitar that takes you through the intro. Throughout the track are some synths, even more drums, echoes, the whole nine yards. It is fascinating to just listen to this song and examine all that it has to offer. By far my favourite track on the whole album.
After this song you may find the urge to take your headphones out and find some decent speakers because there is so much going in the drums from here on out in the album. Especially in the next track “Default” where they are front and center, except for when some synths kick in in the chorus. After this comes the album’s low point – “Ingenue.” The instrumentation in this track is repetitive to the point where the synths get to be a bit grating. The same goes for the effects in the background.
Things pick up with “Dropped” and “Unless,” which have the same vibe as the other tracks on the album but are both completely different and do fascinating things with programming and percussion. Another real treat is “Stuck Together Pieces.” This track sounds a lot like something off of In Rainbows. It has that soft accompaniment to Yorke’s vocals and a familiar sounding guitar. Probably the catchiest and most accessible song on the album.
The album’s single “Judge, Jury and Executioner” is just as experimental as many of the other songs on Amok. The percussion is front and center again in this track and changes up throughout the song alongside Yorke’s haunting vocals. It is a good representation of the album and a good way to introduce people to this band’s sound.
“Reverse Running” and the title track “Amok” round out the album. The former is a more upbeat and catchy tune, while “Amok” is the most daring work on the album – a real love-it-or-hate-it kind of song. There is so much going on that listening to this track is an activity in and of itself. Much like King of Limbs, fans will either love it or hate it.
Now, I’ve made an awful lot of comparisons to Radiohead songs and albums despite there being members from very unique and prominent bands on here. The more I listen, the more I find it impossible not to do so. Yes, the bass lines on this album are phenomenal but perhaps I would not have recognized it as the work of Flea unless someone told me. This is not another Radiohead album, but it is very, very Thom Yorke. This is an experimental album in many respects. It is fascinating to listen to and completely different from most everything out there right now, and simply listening to it could easily be its own activity. Amok takes you to another place. What that place is will be different for everybody. Check it out.